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Volunteers to greet U.S. service members with a handshake at Ford Airport

The day is called "Operation Handshake."
Credit: Ford Airport

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — The day before Thanksgiving is one of the busiest days at Gerald R. Ford International Airport. But a group of volunteers are making sure U.S. service members flying in for Thanksgiving don't get lost in the crowd. 

On Wednesday, airport volunteers, the Patriot Guard Riders and Blue Star mothers will be lining the concourse exits of the airport to greet and thank returning military members and veterans. The day is called "Operation Handshake." 

“We know that not every military member can make it home during the holidays because they are making other sacrifices for our nation. For those returning to West Michigan we want to make it extra special and let them know we are thankful for their service,” said airport President and CEO Tory Richardson. 

The volunteers will be at the airport from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. The event is open to the public. 

“This is what Thanksgiving is really all about,” said Tony VanGessel, Captain of the Patriot Guard Riders of West Michigan. “What we see each year is an inspiration. We get a thank you from the military members, but it’s also heartwarming for the general traveling public around us to see what happens with just a simple salute, handshake, or a thank you.” 

If you know a U.S. service member who is arriving into the Ford Airport on Wednesday, please contact the Patriot Guard Riders and notify them of arrival times and flight information. Information can be sent to Tony VanGessel at 616-862-1984 or tvange58@yahoo.com. 


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